Sunday, 2 May 2010

Going Potty

Enough of all this election stuff! I have a challenge for you - the Garden Organic One-Pot Pledge to be precise.
Now I know the word 'garden' puts off some of my readers. I know at least one otherwise sane and reasonable individual who actually pays someone else to tend his garden for him! But there are good reasons why the One-Pot Pledge should interest even so misguided a soul.
Firstly, you don't have to do any gardening. All you need is just one pot, a square foot of earth or concrete to stand it on and just a couple of minutes per day. Anyone can do that.
Secondly, the whole idea of the One-Pot Pledge is that you use your pot to grow something of your own choosing which you then pick and eat.
Food! Now we're talking! But how many of us know where our food really comes from? How disconnected are we from the realities of how things grow, the soil, the seasons and the weather? We drive to our supermarkets and expect every fruit and vegetable that takes our fancy to be permanently in season and waiting for us on the shelf with no concept whatever of what it took to place it there. And we're the poorer for it.
How far did that sad vegetable travel to reach you? How many hours and days has it sat in cold storage or rumbled around in the back of a truck? When you pick something you've grown it goes straight from pot to plate, and you can't get fresher than that. Try it - I guarantee you'll taste the difference.
And finally there's the educational value. If you have children, what better project could there be? It will get them outdoors during the summer months and teach them the value of perseverance. As they see their chosen crop starting to sprout and grow they will learn that effort produces results and the unalterable rule that life involves seed-times and harvests. You can get them to do all the work and you never know, you might learn something too.
So what could you grow? Pretty much anything, but there are a few I'd reccommend. If you like salads then there are a variety of cut-and-come-again salad leaves that are very easy. And as long as you don't crop every leaf in one go they will keep on producing. Also for salad lovers I'd suggest radishes and/or spring onions. They're quick to mature and take little space, and once you taste these home-grown you'll realise what you've been missing. One tip with these: pick and eat them as soon as they're ready while they're young and tender. If you try to grow them big the texture and flavour will suffer. And my final suggestion - strawberries. Grab a cheap strawberry plant from your local garden centre or DIY shed and bung it in. It will reward you with delicious, sun-warmed fruits that will make you realise you never really knew what a strawberry was.
Success, of course, is all-important so let me give you some tips.
First, the pot. Choose a decent sized one; a pot any less than eight inches in diameter can dry out surprisingly fast on a hot day and wreck your plants. Choose one that holds a good quantity of compost and you'll only have to water once a day. I'd also recommend a plastic pot for the same reason; terracotta looks great but dries out quicker. And if we really are in for a barbecue summer then steer clear of black plastic unless you want your plants cooked before they even reach the kitchen.
Chuck a one-inch layer of small stones, broken bits of crockery or even crushed-up polystyrene into the bottom then fill the rest with general-purpose potting compost. Don't go right to the top though; leave a rim around the pot to make watering easier.
Finally, stand your pot on a couple of spaced bricks to make drainage easier. And here's another tip: if you have problems with slugs and other crop-munching sons of belial then pop the bricks into a tray that's kept constantly filled with water - most of them can't swim.
So there you have it. For a very modest outlay and a minimum of effort you could enjoy fresh, chemical-free home-grown healthy produce and now is the perfect time to start. And if you live in Bishop territory and ask nicely I might even give you a pot, some soil and strawberry plant free of charge. But wherever you live, post a comment if you're going to have a go. Tell us what you're trying and how it turns out, and if you need any help or advice feel free to ask and I'll do my best.
Off you go, then; - get growing!
(For more on Garden Organic and the One-Pot Pledge check out

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